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Date: 01/01/2014
  • Practices
  • Analysis/Framework
  • Grounding in Gratitude
  • Emerging Facilitators
  • Facilitators

The Wheel of the Great Turning

from chapter 6 of Coming Back to Life by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown; second edition, published 2014. Please acknowledge the source when you use any of these practices.


Time: 30 minutes


This lively process is a great way to learn about the Great Turning and generate appreciation for what people are already doing. You may wish to review the Dimensions of the Great Turning as you prepare to lead this exercise.



Clear a circular space, 6 to 10 feet in diameter, around which people sit closely together.  If participants number more than 12 or so, consider making two circles in different parts of the room. Each circular space becomes a Wheel of the Great Turning.

In each wheel, place objects to symbolize the Dimensions of the Great Turning. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Holding Actions in Defense of Life: some first-aid material, like rolls of bandaging
  • Transforming the Foundations of our Common Life: something organic and alive, like a leafy stalk of a growing plant
  • Shift in Perception and Values: a pair of eyeglasses
  • Nurturing Life: a child’s doll or toy (preferably natural and non-commercial)

The wheel turns when people reach into the circle, one at a time, to pick up an object and report to the others something they are involved in or immediately acquainted with. For example, taking the eyeglasses, they may speak of a vision quest or a study group that has opened new horizons. Holding the roll of gauze bandaging, they might tell of volunteering at a soup kitchen or joining the resistance to a corporate water grab in their community. With the stalk of leaves, they might describe a farmers’ market or a cooperative childcare starting in their neighborhood.

This practice generates high spirits and is best kept at a lively pace. To help people be brief, treat it as a ritual. For example, after each person has spoken, the group responds in chorus: “That’s how it goes in the Great Turning!”

Contributor/Author: Joanna Macy & Molly Brown